Friday, August 17, 2018

St Lawrence, Rome, and the South

Ancient Rome has had a strong influence on the South in many ways:  statecraft, the idea of the farmer-soldier, stoicism, rhetoric, architecture, literature - to name some.  This is fine; there is much that is good in the history and traditions of Old Rome.  However, Dixie has failed to glean as much as she could from the Roman tradition because she thrown aside so much of the inheritance of the three Orthodox Christian Romes (Rome, Constantinople, and Moscow) in favor of the new-style Christianity of Protestantism.

What did each of these Romes give to the world?  Metropolitan Vitaly explains:

 . . .

We say that there are three Romes. There is ancient Rome, which through its martyrs broke the iron pillar of the Roman Empire. Pagan Rome gave quite a lot to Christianity, inasmuch as it established the law and defined the human person as a legal entity; it paved countless roads; and it pacified all of Europe, uniting it into the magnificent Roman Empire, into which our Savior was born. The martyrs of the early Christian Church, who had heard the preaching of the Apostles themselves and of their disciples, accepted this preaching with such astonishing clarity that they went to their cruel martyrdoms as if joining a procession. They transformed the Roman Empire by their blood. We remember these great martyrs to this day, and will remember them until the end of the ages.

Later there was the second Rome, Byzantium, which allowed the teaching of the Orthodox Church to pass through the crucible of thought, reason, and human understanding; to this end it made use of the legacy of Greece, which from ancient times had become practiced in human syllogisms and illogisms. Its philosophical heritage was employed in systematizing the Orthodox Church’s teaching. This was the greatest achievement of the second Rome: Byzantium, Constantinople.

Later, when this empire had been destroyed – for there is nothing eternal upon this earth – Moscow became the Third Rome. We have no reason to be ashamed of saying that Moscow was the Third Rome. What gift of God did Moscow, Holy Russia, receive? We know of the countless sufferings through which the Holy Fathers of previous epochs had defended the faith and purity of Orthodoxy from countless heretics. When Orthodoxy spread throughout the Russian plains, the Russian soul in its collectiveness [sobornost] sought its own gift of God, which it found by turning to the Mother of God. The Russian people particularly venerate the Mother of God, which distinguishes our country and our traditions of the Orthodox faith. Of course, other peoples also venerate the Mother of God, but the Russian people chose the Mother of God for special veneration and reverence, as the door to the Heavenly Kingdom. The Mother of God was our special Protectress: there was not a single corner of the whole expanse of the former Russian Empire into which some miraculous icon of the Mother of God had not appeared that was venerated either locally or throughout the nation. The entire Russian land was sanctified by these holy icons; the Russian people believed that the Mother of God herself was invisibly present, as it were, at each icon.

This is our particularity. We will enter the Heavenly Kingdom through the Mother of God. The Mother of God is always depicted with the infant Christ the Savior. This particularity of icon-painting hearkens back to an ancient tradition that tells of some freethinking and insolent people who, looking at the Mother of God during his lifetime, said: “How can she be the Mother of God? How could she have given birth to God? How is this possible?” Then the Mother of God raised her most pure hands to heaven, seeking the protection of God, just as she is depicted on the Kursk-Root Icon. Then the Lord showed Himself to these disputers of this world in her most pure womb, just as He is depicted on her icon. These cowards, seeing such an incredible miracle, were cast into the fear of God; and the insolent people, who were infected with incurable pride, fled in terror, having seen the Savior’s face as Judge in anticipation of His Second Coming.

This is our icon. With the raised hands of the Mother of God it addresses all non-believers and believers alike, that they might learn to fear disbelief. This best witnesses to our entire people that the Mother of God is truly the Theotokos, that she truly bore our God and Savior.

The particular Russian piety for venerating the Mother of God is a response to the Russian soul’s age-old yearning to perceive God’s grace, which cannot be reduced to an abstract concept, distinctly and actually. The Mother of God also showed her protection to such great saints as our St. Sergius of Radonezh, to whom she appeared more than once, and in more recent times to St. Seraphim of Sarov. Recall how St. Seraphim, sitting on a log in the dense forest, revealed God’s grace to Motovilov distinctly and actually. St. Seraphim embraced him and suddenly the grace of the Holy Spirit moved from the saint to Motovilov who, perceiving God’s grace in fear and trembling, felt as though he were not on earth but in heaven.

This is what the Russian people seek: it desires to perceive God’s grace actually and completely. This is the ideal of the Russian soul.

 . . .

But since the South has great affinity for Ancient Rome, let us look more closely at Christianity during the early years of the Church in Rome, during the persecutions of the pagan emperors, particularly at St Lawrence the Head-deacon of Rome and Martyr (+10 August 258).  By studying his life, the South will perhaps be able to step into the broader world of Orthodox Romanity (which is her natural home, being an admirer of things both Roman and Christian).  Here is the hymn that the Spanish poet Prudentius (reposed about 405 A. D.) wrote in honor of his fellow Orthodox Spaniard St Lawrence:

A Hymn in Honour of the Passion of the
Most Blessed Martyr Lawrence.

Rome, thou ancient mother of temples, but now
given up to Christ, Lawrence has led thee to victory
and triumph over barbarous worship. Thou hadst
already conquered haughty kings and held the
nations in check ; now thou dost lay the yoke of thy
power on unnatural idols. This was the one glory
lacking to the honours of the city of the toga, that it
should take savage paganism captive and subdue its
unclean Jupiter, not with the tempestuous strength
of Cossus" or Camillus ^ or Caesar, but by the battle in
which the martyr Lawrence shed his blood. The faith
fought in arms, not sparing her own blood, for by death
she destroyed death and spent herself to save herself.

Xystus « the priest had already foretold this when
he was fastened to the cross and saw Lawrence 
weeping at the foot of its post. " Shed no more 
tears in sorrow at my departure," he said. " I 
go before you, my brother ; you too will follow me 
three days from now." The bishop's last words, 
predicting Lawrence's glory, came true, for the day 
he foretold set the palm before him. With what 
words, what great praises, shall I celebrate the events 
of his death in their order, in what verses worthily 
sing the story of his passion ? He, being the chief of 
the seven" who stand next the altar, the Levite* 
highest in rank and outstanding above the rest, 
was in charge of the safe-keeping of the holy things, 
with trusty keys managing the treasury of the 
heavenly house and paying out the money of the 
offerings. Now the prefect of the imperial city, the 
agent of a frantic ruler for enforcing payment of 
gold and blood, has a hunger for money busy in his 
heart, pondering how to unearth the hidden cash, for 
he thinks great riches piled in heaps lie concealed 
down in the treasury. He orders Lawrence to be 
brought before him and seeks for information of the 
chest packed with precious ingots, the mountains of 
shining coins in store. " It is your wont," he says, 
" to protest that our cruelty goes beyond all justice 
in cleaving Christian bodies with worse than blood- 
thirstiness. Here you have no judge whose mind is 
heated with passions too violent. Softly and calmly I 
make a request which you should be ready to meet. 
It has come out that the custom and style of your 
secret rites, the rule of your brotherhood, is that 
your priests make offering from vessels of gold. 
They say the holy blood smokes in silver cups, and 
that at your services by night the candles stand fixed 
in golden candlesticks. And then, as common talk 
keeps on declaring, it is the brethren's chief concern 
to sell their properties and offer sesterces " in 
thousands. The disinherited heir laments that his 
grandsires' estates have been knocked down in- 
famously under the hammer ; his holy parents have 
brought him to want. All this wealth is concealed in 
out-of-the-way corners of your churches, and it is 
believed to be the greatest piety to leave your dear 
children destitute. Fetch out your treasures, those 
piles you amass through your wicked tricks of per- 
suasion and shut up in some dark hole. Our country's 
need, the emperor's chest, the public treasury call 
for this step, that the money may be devoted to 
soldiers' pay and assist our High Commander. 
Your teaching runs thus, I am told: " Render to 
each his own." Well then, Caesar recognises his 
own stamp on your coins. What you know for 
Caesar's, give to Caesar. It is surely a fair request 
I make. Your God, I think, stamps no money; 
nor when He came did He bring golden Philips « down 
with Him, but gave instructions in words, not being 
furnished with a purse. Make good, then, the credit 
of his sayings, on the strength of which you cry 
yourselves up throughout the world. Pay over the 
money cheerfully and be rich in words." 
No rough or quarrelsome answer does Lawrence 
make to this, but assents willingly, as ready to obey. 
" Our church is rich," he says, " I make no denial. 
It has very much wealth and gold, no man in the 
world is richer. The very Augustus who holds the 
seat of power and whose inscription is on every coin, 
has not so many images on silver. Yet I do not 
object to producing our wealthy God's treasure- 
chest ; I shall divulge and bring forth all the precious 
possessions of Christ. But one thing I beg and 
entreat, — a little time of grace, that I may discharge 
more effectually the task I promise, by making an 
ordered list of all Christ's belongings ; for we must 
first compute the total, and then note it at the foot." 
The delighted prefect, ready to burst with joy, 
greedily enjoys his hope, exulting as if he had the 
gold already laid in his possession. The bargain is 
struck for a space of three days, and then Lawrence 
is commended and dismissed, standing surety for 
himself and for the vast riches. 
For three days he runs about the city gathering 
into one flock the companies of the infirm and all the 
beggars for alms. There a man showing two eyeless 
sockets is directing his straying, faltering step with 
the guidance of a staff ; a cripple with a broken knee, 
a one-legged man with his other limb cut short, a 
man with one leg shorter than the other, are dragging 
unequal steps along. Here is one whose limbs are 
covered with sores and running with decayed matter, 
and one whose right hand is withered, the muscles 
contracted to the elbow. Such people he seeks out 
through all the public places, men who were wont to 
be fed from the store of their mother the Church, 
and whom as her steward he knew before. Then he 
reviews them one by one, writing down each man's 
name, and makes them stand posted in a long line in 
the forefront of the church. 
By this the prescribed time had passed, and the 
judge was beside himself with the vehemence of his 
covetous spirit as he called for payment of the 
promise. Then said the martyr : " Pray give us 
your presence, and marvel at the wealth set out 
before you, which our exceeding rich God has in his 
sanctuaries. You will see the great nave gleaming 
with vessels of gold, and along the open colonnades 
course on course of precious metal." So he went, 
not thinking it beneath him to follow. They reached 
the hallowed door, and there stood the companies of 
poor men in their swarms, a ragged sight. Up rises a 
din of beggars* appeals, and the prefect, startled and 
amazed, turns to Lawrence with menace in his angry- 
eyes. But Lawrence counters : " Why do you rage 
and threaten ? What displeases you ? Do you 
think all this mean or worthless, only to be scorned ? 
Gold, for which you thirst vehemently, is got from 
rubbish dug out of the earth ; penal labour * ex- 
cavates it from dirty mines ; or a rushing river rolls 
it down enwrapped in its muddy sand; and being 
earthy and dirty it has to be refined with fire. By 
means of gold the bonds of modesty are unloosed and 
innocence is outraged, through it peace comes to an 
end, honour dies, the very law itself lapses away. 
Why do you exalt the poison of glory and hold it 
of great worth ? If you seek gold that is more real, 
it is the light and the race of men. These are foster- 
children of light, confined by a feeble body lest 
through the well-being of their flesh their spirit 
should swell with pride. When disease rives the body 
the spirit is stronger in activity, but again when the 
members are stout the force of the spirit is hurt. 
For the blood is hot for sin, but it furnishes less force 
if its heat is exhausted by bodily ills and it contracts 
a poison which enfeebles it. If haply I had to choose , 
I would rather bear with broken members under the 
cruellest pain and be handsome in my inner self. 
Match together the natures of the ills that plague us, 
compare our calamities of either kind : is disease of 
the flesh the more loathsome, or the sores on soul 
and character ? Our people are weakly in body, but 
within they have beauty unimpaired, they are comely 
and free from distress and bear a soul that has no 
hurt. But yours, while strong in body, are corrupted 
by an inner leprosy, their superstition halts like one 
that is maimed, their self-deception is blind and 
sightless. Any of your great men, who make 
a brave show in dress and features, I shall prove 
feebler than any of my poor men. Here is one who 
vaunts himself in his silk and is puffed up with pride 
as he rides in his chariot, but a watery dropsy of the 
soul within distends him with its transparent poison. 
And here is another who in his greed crooks his hands 
and draws them close, his palm doubled, his finger- 
nails like hooks, and cannot relax the tendons. This 
other is dragged by foul lust among public harlots and 
polluted with mire and filth as he goes a-begging 
after dirty whorings. And he there, who seeks 
hotly for advancement and burns with thirst for 
rank, is he not panting with fevers underneath and 
maddened by the fire in his veins ? Whoso wants the 
self-control to be silent and has a restless urge to 
betray secrets suffers tortures from the irritation of 
his passion and the constant itch in his heart. You 
do not need me to recount the scrofulous swellings in 
envious breasts, or the discoloured, festering sores of 
malice. You yourself who rule over Rome, who 
despise the everlasting God, worshipping foul devils, 
are suffering from the ruler's sickness.** These men, 
whom in your pride you scorn and count detestable, 
will soon put off their sore-ridden bodies and be in 
sound health, when they shall be loosed and free at 
last from the most corrupt flesh and in the most 
beauteous condition of life shine in their Father's 
house on high, no longer dirty or feeble as for the 
present they appear, but bright with gleaming robes 
and golden crowns. Then, if it were possible, I 
would have these great men of the world put for 
review before your eyes. You would see them 
covered with rags, snivelling at the nose, their chins 
wet with their slaver, their eyes purblind and matter- 
ing on the lids. There is nothing fouler than a 
sinner, nothing so leprous or rotten ; the wound 
of his sins keeps bleeding and stinks like the pit of 
hell. The tables are turned and a corrupted figure 
is imposed on souls which formerly had delight in a 
comely presence in the body. Here then are the 
golden coins which a short while ago I promised, 
coins which tumbling walls cannot bury under burn- 
ing ashes, nor thief carry away by stealth. And now 
I give you noble jewels also, so that you need not 
think Christ is poor, jewels of flashing light with 
which this temple is adorned. You see the con- 
secrated virgins, and marvel at the pure old women 
who after the loss of their first husbands have known 
no second love. These are the Church's necklace, 
the jewels with which she decks herself; thus dowered 
she is pleasing to Christ, and thus she adorns her 
high head. There are her riches, take them up; 
with them you will adorn the city of Romulus and 
enrich the emperor's estate, and yourself be made 
richer too." 
" He is mocking us," cries the prefect, mad with 
rage, " making wonderful sport of us with all this 
allegory. And yet the madman lives ! Think you, 
rascal, to get off with contriving such trickeries with 
your comedian's quibbling and theatrical buffoonery ? " 
Did you think it neat pleasantry to make a butt of 
me? Have you made your guffaws out of me and 
turned me into a merry piece of entertainment ? 
Have the magisterial rods so wholly lost their stern 
control? Has gentle lenity so blunted the axe of 
authority ? You say ' I am ready to die ; to the 
martyr death is an object of desire.' You Christians 
have, we know, this vain persuasion. But I shall not 
grant your wish to be presented with a short way 
to your end in a quick death. I shall not let you die 
in a hurry. I shall hold on to your life and prolong it 
through slow, unceasing punishments ; a death which 
keeps you fast in its toils will drag out long-lasting 
pains. Lay the coals not too hot, so that the heat 
shall not be too fiery and seize on the stiff-necked 
fellow's face and get into the depths of his breast. 
Let its hot breath die down and languish so as to 
pour out with no strong gust but by degrees temper 
the torments and only scorch his body.<* It is well 
that of them all the head of their secret rites has 
fallen into our hands, for he by himself will furnish 
an example of what they next must fear. Get up on 
to the pyre they have laid for you, lie down on the 
bed you deserve ; and then, if you like, argue that 
my god of fire is nothing." 
While the prefect was thus speaking, the cruel 
tormentors all around were making ready to strip 
the martyr of his robe and bind his limbs and stretch 
them out. His face shone with beauty and a glory 
was shed around him. Such was the countenance 
that the bearer of the law brought down from the 
mountain on his return, and the Jewish people, having 
stained and tarnished itself with the golden ox, was 
greatly afraid of him and turned its face away because 
it could not bear the presence of God.« Such again 
was the glory which Stephen presented shining on 
his face as amid the rain of stones he gazed at the 
open heavens.* This was made visible farther off 
to the brethren lately cleansed from sin, whom 
baptism given not long before had made fit to 
receive Christ ; but the blind eyes of the ungodly, 
their face being covered over with the blackness of 
night and enveloped under a veil of darkness, saw 
not the brilliance. It was like the Egyptian plague 
which, while it condemned the barbarians to dark- 
ness, gave to the Hebrews the clear light of day." 
Even the very nature of the smell arising from the 
scorched skin gave the two parties contrary sensa- 
tions : to the one it was the smell of roasting, to the 
other the scent of nectar ; the same sense, varied 
by a different aura, in the one case brought on the 
nostrils an avenging horror, in the other charmed 
them with delight. So is God an everlasting fire; 
for Christ is the true fire, it is He who fills the 
righteous with light and burns the guilty. 

After the long-continued heat has burned his side 
away, Lawrence on his own part hails the judge 
and addresses him briefly from the gridiron: "This 
part of my body has been burned long enough ; turn 
it round and try what your hot god of fire has done." 
So the prefect orders him to be turned about, and 
then " It is done," says Lawrence; " eat it up, try 
whether it is nicer raw or roasted." These words 
spoken in jest, he then looks up to heaven, and sigh- 
ing deeply prays in pity for the city of Romulus : 
" O Christ, the one name, the glory and strength of 
the Father, creator of earth and sky and founder of 
this city, who hast set the sceptre of the world on 
Rome's high citadel, ordaining that the world obey 
the toga of Quirinus "and yield to his arms, that 
thou might 'st bring under one system of laws the 
customs and observance, the speech and character 
and worship of nations which differed among them- 
selves ; lo, the whole race of men has passed under 
the sovereignty of Remus, and usages formerly dis- 
cordant are now alike in speech and thought. This 
was appointed that the authority of the Christian 
name might bind with one tie all lands everywhere. 
Grant, O Christ, to thy Romans that the city by 
which Thou hast granted to all others to be of one 
mind in worship, may itself be Christian. All its 
members everywhere are now allied in one con- 
fession of faith. The world it has subdued grows 
peaceable ; may the supreme head too grow peace- 
able. May she see that countries far apart are 
uniting in one state of grace, and may Romulus 
become one of the faithful, and Numa himself be now 
a believer. The superstition which came from Troy 
still confounds a senate of Catos," doing homage at 
secret altars to the Phrygians' exiled Penates.* 
The senate worships Janus of the two faces and 
Sterculus " (I shudder to name all these monstrosities 
our Fathers own) and keeps the festival of old 
Saturn.'* Wipe away this shame, O Christ; send 
forth thy servant Gabriel that the straying blindness 
of Julus * may recognise the true God. Already we 
hold most trusty sureties for this hope, for already 
there reign here the two chiefs of the apostles,/ the 
one he who called the Gentiles, while the other 
occupies the foremost chair and opens the gates of 
eternity which were committed to his keeping. 
Away, thou lecherous Jupiter, defiled with the 
violation of thy sister! Leave Rome at liberty, 
flee from her people, who now are Christ's. Paul 
banishes thee hence, the blood of Peter drives thee 
out. That deed of Nero's <* for which thou didst 
put the sword in his hand hurts thee. I foresee that 
one day there will be an emperor who will be the 
servant of God and will not suffer Rome to be in the 
service of vile, abominable rites, but will shut and bar 
her temples, block up their ivory doors, close their 
unholy entrances and make them fast with bolts of 
brass. Then at last will her marbles shine bright 
because they will be cleansed from all blood, and 
the statues that stand in bronze, which now she 
thinks of as idols, will be guiltless." ^ 
So ended his prayer, and with it ended his im- 
prisonment in the flesh ; the spirit broke forth eagerly 
after his words. Certain senators carried the body 
on their shoulders, whom the hero's marvellous inde- 
pendence had persuaded to seek the favour of Christ. 
A new disposition had suddenly inspired their inmost 
hearts and from love of the most high God constrained 
them to hate their old-time follies. From that day 
the worship of those base gods flagged, the people 
were seen in smaller numbers at their shrines, and 
there was a rush to the sanctuary of Christ. In this 
warfare Lawrence did not gird a sword on his side, 
but turned back the foe's steel against its wi elder. 
In making war on God's indomitable witness, the 
devil was stabbed himself and fell, and now lies 
prostrate for ever. The death the holy martyr died 
was in truth the death of the temples. That day 
Vesta saw her Palladian house-spirits " deserted and 
no vengeance follow. All the Romans who used 
to reverence Numa's libation-cup * now crowd the 
churches of Christ and sound the martyr's name in 
hymns. The very ornaments of the senate, men who 
once served as Luperci " or flamens, now eagerly kiss 
the thresholds of apostles and martyrs. We see 
distinguished families, where both sides are high- 
born, dedicate their dear ones, their noble children. 
The priest who once wore the head-bands is admitted 
to receive the sign of the cross and, Lawrence, a 
Vestal Claudia "^ enters thy church. 
O thrice and four times, yea seven times blessed 
the dweller in Rome, who pays honour to thee and 
the abode of thy bones in presence, who can kneel 
by them, who sprinkles the spot with his tears, 
bowing his breast to the ground and in a low voice 
pouring out his prayers! Us the Vascon Ebro 
separates from thee, we are far removed beyond 
two mountain-ranges, across the Cottian heights '^ 
and the snowy Pyrenees. Scarcely even have we 
heard report how full Rome is of buried saints, 
how richly her city's soil blossoms with holy tombs. 
Still though we lack these blessings and cannot see 
the traces of blood with our own eyes, we look up to 
heaven on high. It is thus, holy Lawrence, that we 
seek thy passion; for thou hast two seats, that of 
thy body here on earth, that of thy soul in heaven. 
Admitted there as a freeman of the ineffable city, 
thou wearest the civic crown * in that Capitol where 
sits the everlasting senate. I think I see the hero 
flashing with brilliant jewels, whom the heavenly 
Rome has chosen to be her perpetual consul. The 
power entrusted to thee, the greatness of the 
function assigned to thee, is proved by the rejoicings 
of Rome's citizens, to whose requests thou givest 
assent. What each one asks in prayer, he has 
happily granted him. They ask, and are gay, and 
tell, and none returns home sorrowful ; it is as if thou 
wert ever by their side to help, taking thy foster- 
children of the city to the richness of thy breast and 
feeding them with a father's love. Among them, 
thou glory of Christ, listen to a country poet as he 
acknowledges the sins of his heart and confesses his 
deeds. He is unworthy, I know and own, that 
Christ himself should hearken to him ; but through 
the advocacy of the martyrs he may attain to healing. 
Be thou gracious and hear the prayer of Prudentius 
who stands arraigned by Christ, and set him free 
from the fetters of the world where he is in bondage 
to the body. 

The greatness of the Roman tradition is summed up in saints like the Martyr Lawrence.  Mark Antony’s lines in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar ‘He was the noblest Roman of them all’ and ‘This was a man!’ more properly apply to them by far than to Brutus.  When the South learns to pray to them, honor them, and imitate them, things will go better for her.

Holy Archdeacon Lawrence, pray for us sinners at the South!


Holy Ælfred the Great, King of England, South Patron, pray for us sinners at the Souð, unworthy though we are!

Anathema to the Union!

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